Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Bulbs

The Indoor Tulips

by Shila Patel

'Apricot Beauty'

In the realm of gardening, instant gratification is an elusive matter. For the most part, nature forces her rhythms on our desires. But find a way to speed up the seasons, and you can nudge spring-flowering tulips to bloom in winter.

Choosing Tulips for Indoors. First, select bulbs suited for forcing indoors. Generally, shorter, more compact varieties like 'Red Riding Hood' and 'Stresa' are better choices than tall varieties. Some taller types such as 'Apricot Beauty', 'Calgary', and 'Gudoshnik' are also good choices.

Shop for bulbs as you would for onions: Choose top-quality bulbs that are large and heavy for their size, and avoid ones that are soft or moldy or whose papery brown outside layer is missing. If you can't pot the bulbs immediately, store them in a mesh or paper bag in a cool (below 65°F) place, ideally in the refrigerator crisper. Never store bulbs in the freezer or with fruits that emit ethylene, a gas that hinders flowering.

Timing. To induce flowering, most tulips require about 14 weeks of temperatures below 48°F followed by 2 to 3 weeks at 60 to 65°F. But some are faster. 'Brilliant Star' and 'Christmas Dream' require only 10 weeks below 48°F. Start these in mid-September, and you will have tulips blooming for the holidays.

For staggered bloom after the New Year, start bulbs as soon as they are available, but no later than early October. It's easier to delay flowering than to speed it up; simply increase the time the planted pots spend below 48°F. Also, if you pot bulbs later in the season, they will flower more quickly. For example, a variety started in October will bloom in 12 weeks, but the same one started in December, having been stored until then in a cool room, could bloom in 8 weeks.

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